Returnal’s 3D Audio is a Mechanic, Not a Feature

The King of Custom – PS5 Specs Revealed by Me March 2020

My two cents on the custom audio tech inside the PS5 when it was announced just over a year ago at GDC by Mark Cerny.

I thought the most custom element was the 3D audio tech that Mark detailed. Sony wanted to offer great audio for all players, not just those with fancy sound systems or headphones. So they went ahead and built custom hardware to help create 3D audio from any set of speakers (eventually). Headphones are the gold standard due to one speaker per ear, but Mark even talked about generating 3D audio from TV speakers. With it included in every single PS5, that gives all players and all devs the opportunity to experience/use 3D audio. It reminds me of the leap from standard definition to HD, but for our ears. Pardon the pun, but it sounds bonkers.

I’ve spent an hour or so playing Returnal with some headphones on.

Holy. Smokes.

Besides just sounding incredible, I was surprised at how intuitive and essential it was. I heard wild alien creatures whipping around me in the level. I instinctively turned toward the sound and stopped immediately on the enemy.

This was more than standard surround sound pointing me in a direction. I locked-in on the enemy with my ears before I did with my eyes or gun. In a fight-or-flight scenario, my ears did their survival job.

Then I got thinking about PSVR2 again…

When you combine these [haptic feedback and adaptive trigger] elements with the PS5’s Tempest audio engine, PSVR 2 has incredible potential to really put users in a place.

PlayStation’s pursuit of immersion this generation is off to a stellar start and promises to be a transformative addition to gameplay. I can’t wait to feel, hear, and see more.